A good way to start your day; a super start to a great cocktail!
by Ari Weinzweig
The Sri Lankan writer Amanda Coomaraswamy said that “Industry without art is brutality.” I agree. And I’ll add that business without beauty is much the same. The beauty, for me, comes mostly in the little things—the small stuff that’s easily overlooked but makes for outstanding, though quiet, moments of both majesty and magic. Sometimes the magic comes from people. Other times from food. Other times still, it’s about a drink. In this case, it’s one of the simplest, but subtly special ways I know to start one’s day: a glass of fresh orange juice at the Roadhouse.
It’s funny how things that we could take for granted have somehow become so rare that getting the real thing is cause for pause. In this case, for most of the country, actually drinking fresh orange juice is not an everyday activity. What have we been drinking? For the most part, it’s commercially processed and packaged juice, that begins with oranges, and is sold as “fresh,” but could be many months old before it’s consumed.
I can’t remember ever having the real thing when I was growing up in Chicago. Clearly, we could have made it at home. It just wasn’t done. At least not in my family. Why squeeze, I suppose, when you could score the convenience of canned or bottled, store-bought, long shelf life options? In hindsight, it’s a bit embarrassing but I realize now that I grew up drinking the citrus equivalent of “American cheese singles.” Or Wonder Bread. Soulless industrial offerings that could be stored forever and kept consistent (in their standard so-so state) for ages.
What is all that commercial juice? Well, I wouldn’t have known either, but I decided to do a bit of homework. And now I know—there’s a reason why the “orange juice of my childhood” tastes so strange. And so little like fresh juice of the sort we squeeze and serve at the Roadhouse. For the industrial version, oranges are squeezed, en masse, and then all the oxygen is taken out of the fresh juice. That keeps it from turning bad. It also apparently takes all the flavor out. The flavor is then replaced with a series of “faux flavorings” (which are made by labs, combining “natural flavors” so that the labels don’t have to list anything artificial.) The end result, I know from decades of drinking experience is . . . orange for sure, but not all that tasty.
Turning back to the positive, though, there’s this delicious fresh juice that we have on hand every day. It’s kind of a marvel. I look forward to it every time I’m in the building. One good friend who gets around town said, rather adamantly, the other day: “You probably don’t realize it, but that orange juice at the Roadhouse is some of the best around.” She’s right—it’s easy for me to take it for granted—there’s not really much to it. Oranges. Squeezed. Poured into glasses. Honestly, it’s spoiled me—it’s become hard to drink the commercial stuff. The same, I should say, goes for the grapefruit. (We also squeeze lemon and lime juice for cocktails but we’ll save that for another story—try the Roadhouse limeade too!) I generally enjoy it in the morning, but it’s marvelous any time of day. It makes a mean cocktail.
Speaking of which, the fresh juice in that sense, can be as much of a revelation later in the day as it is when the sun is coming up. I asked Sarah Bartlett, bar manager at the Roadhouse, for her favorites. She sent me back a strong list:
- Grapefruit juice (and lime) are in the Hemingway daiquiri (on the cocktail list)
- Monkey Gland – OJ, gin, grenadine, and absinthe
- Paloma – grapefruit juice and tequila
- Salty Dog – grapefruit juice with vodka and a salt rim
- Blood & Sand – scotch, OJ, sweet vermouth, and Heering cherry liqueur
With any or all of these in mind, I’d like to raise a toast—with alcohol or otherwise—to all the barbacks who do the work to squeeze all that citrus at the Roadhouse. A thousand thanks to Ava, Chris, Sophie, Ethan, and all the other folks who make the fresh juice magic happen every day!